At any given moment catastrophe can strike, forever changing the lives of thousands of people. In the blink of an eye, while we are busy in the routine of daily life we can easily forget the happenings outside our own comfortable social atmosphere. Earlier this year upon hearing the news of devastating weather outbreaks across the country, I had an awakening. I needed to get to the area where lives were so greatly effected with my photography equipment and document the events. I chose a free day on the calendar and headed to Columbus, Ohio, where I met with my friend and colleague Cory Pampalone. We went over a rough plan to head into Kentucky with absolutely zero guidance. Just faith that our help would be needed … I closely monitored my twitter feed throughout the day, and I felt compelled to message Tad Agoglia from First Response Team of America. I was aware of the work that they have been doing across disaster areas in our country and knew they were first on the scene in West Liberty, Ky. With my thumbs on the keypad of my phone, I composed a tweet, not truly knowing what to say… “Um, hello Photographers in area with desire to help…” “Hi, my name is…” it all seemed so contrived. I put the phone down, kept faith that we would be guided to where our time was needed and headed out to dinner.
Within an hour I checked the Twitter feed again. Photographer Jeremy Cowart sent out a tweet on behalf of First Response Team asking for volunteer photographers in West Liberty, Ky.
“Volunteer photographer needed 8:00 am tomorrow morning at Tornado site West Liberty, KY to help charity
@firstresponse. Tweet them 2 help.”
I immediately sent a tweet to them both:
Within five minutes we were connected on speakerphone hashing out a plan and getting to know one another. Unreal.
We set out early from Columbus in my van, photo gear in tow to meet up and document the disaster and First Response Team’s efforts to restore order and a sense of normalcy to the town. The experience was humbling, surreal and striking. Cory and I were absolutely in awe of the damage. We hoped that the images would document it well and help stir the same desire in others to help. Too often we use social media in an anti-social and ego-stroking way. We forget that on the other end of our status updates or check-ins to our social hangouts that these tools are also being utilized to save lives. Incredible. Humbling.
Editor’s note: CNN producers were able to blast a story about First Response’s work in Kentucky because of the photos Chris and Cory supplied. First Response raised more than $8,000 as a direct result of the coverage. You can read the story here.
Wow! Awesome guest! Makes me go out and take pics! Aweso e imagery. Btw, jeremy your blog and site layout is all wacky on my iPad. Anyways, great review.